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Luke 13:1-21

The Evil and the Good

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • August 5, 2012

As we follow the story of Jesus' life here on earth, we encounter Pilate, a man of cruelty. He had a reputation of doing cruel, terrible acts. It was no doubt that the question in the minds of those who informed Jesus was "Why? Did they do something to deserve this?" Jesus answered their question with the wisdom and heart of God, and we can learn a lot from his response.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Evil and the Good

Luke 13:1-21 

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem and the multitudes are growing greater as He journeys southward. He stops at various places to teach the multitude, lay hands on the sick and those possessed by a demon, and teaches in their synagogues.

The last several weeks we've been following Jesus as He was teaching a large multitude, then on the same occasion some who were present reported to Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

Pontius Pilate had a reputation for cruelty and the troubles between him and the Jewish people were famous. His very first act nearly caused a general insurrection. The Roman commanders before him had respected the religious feelings of the Jews, but Pilate allowed the Roman images and standards to be brought into Jerusalem itself. Crowds of Jews hastened to Caesarea where Pilate was residing to protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to surround the petitioners and put them to death, the Jews laid on the ground and bared their necks; Pilate, hot with anger, had no choice but to yield.

Later, Pilate appropriated funds from the Temple treasury to provide for the construction of an aqueduct for supplying the city of Jerusalem with water. He suppressed the riots that followed by sending among the crowds disguised soldiers carrying concealed daggers who massacred a great number, not only of the rioters, but of casual spectators as well.

In another act of cruelty, Pilate had his soldiers massacre some Galileans who were offering sacrifices to God. No doubt the question on the minds of those who informed Jesus was "Why, did they do something to deserve this?" Jesus answered with the wisdom and heart of God.

I. Make Conclusions by Faith in God

  • When things like this happen, people often make conclusions that are wrong because they suppose that bad things only happen to people who deserve it.
  • Jesus answers their assumption and calls them all to repentance. All the Galileans were sinners and everyone in Jerusalem were culprits.
  • We need to look at these assumptions ourselves and realize this is an opportunity to increase in faith as well.

A. Wrong conclusion #1; God is punishing you

  • In other words, bad things only happen to people that deserve it. This conclusion is as old as the oldest book in the Bible. Job suffered through terrible tragedies and his so-called friends insisted he was hiding sin in his life.
  • Jesus came upon a man who was born blind and the disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, the man or his parents that he should be born blind?" They had already decided that someone had sinned; the only question in their mind was who. Jesus gave an insightful answer.

John 9:3, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

  • There are several reasons why it is so common for people to jump to this wrong conclusion.
    • Everyone has enough sin to “prove” this conclusion is “right.” 
  • They confuse consequences with the punishment of God. 

Proverbs 6:26, Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?

  • But we should also add the insight from David when he wrote Psalm 103.

Psalm 103:8-14 God is compassionate and slow to anger

B. Conclusion #2; bad things shouldn’t happen

  • There wasn't room in the heading to give the complete wrong conclusion that people come to. It could read, "Bad things should not happen to good people."
  • This is a common conclusion that many people come to as well when something bad happens.
  • Actually, it's the same kind of logic used in the first wrong conclusion; if every tragedy is the result of our sin, then every good thing is the result of our doing something good to deserve it.

Illus – If you hit a golf ball and it goes flying into the trees, hits a branch and lands squarely in the middle of the fairway, someone will no doubt say, “Man, you must be livin’ right!”

Illus - To quote from the Sound of Music, "Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could, so somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must've done something good."

  • Many people believe that if they have been doing something good, something worthy and honorable, then they should be protected from bad things happening.

Illus – The widow of Zarephath had shown kindness to Elijah; she gave him an apartment above her house and made meals for him from the supply of flour and oil that God had miraculously provided. But then her only son died and she said to Elijah, "You have come to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!"

If she had been doing good then where was God’s love and God’s power? For many people this seems inconsistent.

  • Another way to ask it would be; why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people?
  • Jesus also spoke to this when He said that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Matthew 5:44-45, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

  • God is gracious to those who don't deserve it and God extends mercy to those who don't deserve it. They key is in understanding that God is sovereign over all things and therefore what we need is to trust God in faith.

C. Living faith is the fruit God desires

  • Jesus then told them a parable about a fig tree that had no fruit. The parable speaks about the living faith that God desires in our lives, but also about the grace and patience of God. 
  • Over and over in scripture Israel is compared to a fig tree. That fig tree in Jesus's parable was covered with leaves so it had the appearance, the promise, of fruit, but there was none.
  • There in Jerusalem was the famous Temple that Herod the Great had built. They considered it one of the great wonders of the world.
  • There were more than 20,000 priests and Levites, there were tens of thousands of rabbis, and there were daily sacrifices. The rising smoke from them could be seen throughout Jerusalem.
  • But where was their heart after God? The purpose of fig trees is figs, not leaves. They had all the appearance of religion, many of their leaders studied the Word of God, but they didn't have love for God in their hearts.

Illus – What follows is a perfect picture of that very thing; Jesus heals a woman bound by a spirit for 18 years, but He heals her on the Sabbath and the synagogue ruler becomes indignant! This is an example of leaves with no fruit. Where is the heart after God?

Illus – In our Proverbs study there is a picture of a seductive woman who seduces a young man…

Proverbs 7:13, So she seizes him and kisses him and with a brazen face she says, "I was due to offer peace offerings; today I paid my vows."

  • She's obedient to the law on one point, but has no heart after God.

II. Don’t be Surprised when Birds Make Nests

  • Øesus then gives two parables that follow along the same theme. By these parables Jesus explains that the good and the bad reside together.
  • By faith we understand that at the end of the age all accounts are settled so that what we need now is to walk in faith and to draw near to God.

A. Mustard trees have birds’ nests

  • Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that grows up to become a tree so that even the birds of the air nest in its branches.
  • Mustard plants were never intended to grow to this degree and it was certainly not common for birds to nest in mustard bushes.
  • But in another parable Jesus just spoke of the evil one as birds that snatch away the Word of God.
  • This parable is a warning that the kingdom of heaven will increase, but the birds of the air will also come and make a nest.
  • In other words, even the kingdom of heaven here on earth will have within it those whose hearts are not after God at all. They will grow up together, but all things are settled at the end of the age. 

Matthew 13:24, Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away."

Illus - Billy Graham was once being interviewed on Larry King Live and was asked the question, "Are things worse than they have ever been?" Billy Graham answered, "Things are getting worse, but they're also getting better." Of course he was asked to explain such an answer and he said, "There is a parable of Jesus that the wheat and the tares must grow up together and as we come toward the end the poisonous tares are getting riper but the wheat is getting riper as well. Soon, the Lord will send forth his angels with his sickle and gather the unbelieving in bundles and cast them into everlasting fire…”

  • The call for us is to have an authentic heart after God and be sure that we are the wheat with the right heart.
  • This happened in Israel as well and the Lord had something strong to say about it.

Ezekiel 34:1-4 They did not feed God's sheep

Ezekiel 34:11-16 God Himself would feed them

B. Leaven will puff up many

  • The next parable has been interpreted two ways. One interpretation is that it's a wonderful picture of how the kingdom of heaven will start out insignificantly but affect the whole world.
  • The problem with that interpretation it is that Jesus is speaking to Jews and they would have interpreted leaven as a representation of sin.
  • Jesus also spoke of leaven as a picture of sin, the apostle Paul did as well. Wheat it used to make bread and that is a picture of the church.
  • Jesus is giving a warning in advance so that no one is surprised when these things are revealed.
  • Someone might say, "But this seems to paint a picture of the kingdom of heaven that's not all good and wonderful.”
  • It's true that Jesus is painting a realistic picture so we understand in advance, but it's also important to understand that the church is still the bride of Christ and though there may be many things that are imperfect in the church, it’s still the bride of Christ that He loves dearly.
  • He therefore gives warnings so that we are aware and careful to build and strengthen His church.
  • Jesus said to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees; either adding to the Word or taking away from the Word of God.

Matthew 16:12, Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

  • But He’s also speaking about the purity of heart and devotion that God desires in His church that He loves. 

Luke 13:1-21    NASB

1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

6 And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' 8 And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"
 
10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your sickness." 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, "There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day." 15 But the Lord answered him and said, "You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?" 17 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.
 
18 So He was saying, "What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches." 20 And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."
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